Groaners

A glittering softness hangs over the stream bed. Water levels are very low this year.
That’s it! An August water level in June.

Nearly everyone knows about Gary Larson’s “Far Side” cartoons. When you mention the man’s name, folks instantly tell you about their favourite one. A former family doctor, when sending files to a specialist, would glue a Larson to the folder. He claimed that file would always end up on top of the pile. After an accident which required major heart surgery, I was able to get near the head of the line-up relatively quickly. Perhaps a Larson cartoon helped save my life!

Down to a trickle.

Half of Larson’s work goes right over my head. I don’t understand it at all. The other ones are indelible. I cannot name a favourite because I have several filed away in my brain. Among them is one about a boy entering the “School For The Gifted” and pushing desperately on a door marked ‘Pull.’

Two dogs have a man on his back while they tickle him and laugh at his twitching leg.

There is one about the “Boneless Chicken Ranch.”

Cows grazing placidly in a field stand on their hind legs until someone shouts “Car coming!” Two old salts sit at a bar and exchange yarns. One with a wooden leg says “Well that’s interesting but let me tell you how I lost this.” His buddy has a wooden peg sticking up from his collar with a sailor’s hat hanging from the top.” The humour is often dark and sarcastic, but then all humour is a form of sarcasm.

Our cartoonists and comedians are among our modern philosophers and Larson is there with the best. One of his works depicts cattle in a long queue which goes up a ramp into the Acme Abattoir. One cow stands at right angles to the line with its head jammed between the tail of the cow in front and the face of the next cow which says, “No cutting in eh!” How’s that for social comment?

Two morgue workers attend a body in a drawer, sheet over it, toe tagged. They are going through the deceased’s pockets. One worker finds a winning lottery ticket. He says,“Lucky stiff.” As you recall one cartoon yet more come to mind.

Humour has been my salvation. Mr Larson has certainly helped sustain me in a few different ways. I’d like to buy him a beer and discover what sort of fellow he is in person. I often employ humour to ease my way through difficult situations and in interactions with other people. If you can make someone laugh, especially yourself, things are going to work out. Folks who don’t laugh leave me baffled. Everyone needs levity and the endorphin release induced with laughter. “Laughter, the best medicine” is not just a cliché.

No-one is as broke as the person who has lost their sense of humour. I think of the people out there with no apparent sense of humour at all, ever, and I wonder how they carry on. Many of those dour characters are in prominent places making global decisions. I’m sure they carry a sobering load but wouldn’t it be great if people like Mr. Trump, for example, just stepped up to the microphone and asked, “Did you ever hear the one about…?” Suddenly the world would become a much brighter place. Imagine Gary Larson, Billy Connolly, Steven Wright or Rowan Atkinson as a political leader. Prime Minister Bean, that does have a ring to it. Mind you, they probably do more for humanity right where they are. Volodymyr Zelensky, the new President of the Ukraine, was a nationally prominent comedian. Considering the dangerous clown named Putin with whom he must now lock horns, he is perhaps imminently qualified for his new role. I know nothing about politics, especially in Eastern Europe. Politics here leave me plenty baffled.

The bee’s knees. You can see them sticking out from behind one flower.

Even here at home, where everyday the political news is yet another groaner, it would be nice to laugh with, instead of at, all those manoeuvring to get themselves re-elected. On a final note about politicians and humour, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has just announced the government’s approval of the very controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline . I am reminded of Steven Wright’s line, “I just took a lie detector test…no I didn’t.” 

A promise of green apples. “Anyone can count the seeds in one apple, but who can count the apples in one seed?”

On the subject of groaners, my little rotted trailer is gone. It sold at a salvage price to some very nice people who clearly understand, and want, the project they have bought. No matter how I did the math, I could not make sense of building myself a mobile monument. I could easily have spent all of the summer, and up to another ten thousand dollars, building the ultimate f.r.e.d. trailer (freaking ridiculous economic disaster) Now the albatross around my neck is gone and so once again I can start over. After attending URVU (Used RV University,) I can find another trailer now that I think I know what to look for. Meanwhile I feel that I’ve stood over the toilet and ripped up ten thousand dollars for one mighty royal flush. That much money is a fortune to me these days but I keep telling myself that I’m getting off lightly. I know of folks who have bought houses, vehicles, boats and RVs for a very much higher tuition.

Closed. I know, it’s irrelevant to this blog, but I could not resist the image.

You can well imagine some of the language I’ve used in consideration of recent events. Coincidentally, a friend just e-mailed me about the origins of the word “Shit.” Lord, I hope this is true! Before fertilizers had been invented manure was often shipped by sea. To reduce weight, it was always dried first. (Some places on earth had natural deposits of seabird droppings which was mined as “Guano.”) Once at sea, this cargo tended to absorb moisture and begin to ferment. Fermentation produces methane. Any flame below decks, such as a lantern, would cause a huge explosion. Several ships were lost this way before the cause was eventually determined.

After that, these cargoes were marked with the warning, Ship High In Transit. S.H.I.T. Thus ends the nautical portion of this blog.

My nautical image for this blog. It is of a stowed gaff-mainsail and an explanation of the term, “Knowing the ropes.”

The stream beds are dry, the snow on the mountains is gone. Folks continue to soak their lawns and continue to wash their cars and boats. This, in a community where sprawling subdivisions have been permitted to spread like cancer. The newcomers water their new lawns as oblivious to the problem as the municipal fathers. Water levels, this mid-June, are lower than many years in August. We have twice the population as only a few years ago with the same water supply, let alone in a year of drought. All those new roads, and driveways are freshly paved. That in turn sheds any precipitation we do receive. It is no longer retained as it was in the forest ecosystem which is now gone. When the tap to the hot tub coughs out a puff of dust, who will we blame? Water, clean fresh water, even in our toilets, the most precious commodity on the planet, is something with which we are abundantly blessed and take absolutely for granted. I close my eyes and hear Joni Mitchel singing ‘Big Yellow Taxi’… “They’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Who would have ever thought that British Columbia would face water shortages?

Jack, now very hale and healthy, indulges in his favourite pastime while there’s still fresh water to wade in.
Summer!

So, two quotes for this posting. One leapt out at me from some research I was doing. I am a sucker for anything Steinbeck so I was immediately hooked. It thumped me between the eyes. The lyrical blessing of the second quote was graciously sent to me from a friend who apparently understands perfect timing. Is it possible? Can one’s stumbling progress come together as if there was a higher purpose that will make sense in the end? Only we can make that realization.

The hairy monster. A dog we met on the trail was furious at the sight of the microphone.

Do you take pride in your hurt? Does it make you seem large and tragic? …Well, think about it. Maybe you’re playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience.” 
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

– Edward Abbey

The Way You See It

If you can’t see the humour in this, well…I hope you’re feeling better in the morning.

I have a natural inclination to apply humour to all my human interactions. It comes from a hard-wired insecurity which tells me that for successful interpersonal relations, I need to win folks over with a laugh and a smile. Most of the time that strategy works and I can get along well with folks, even those I don’t actually like. Once in a while I encounter some poor soul who is so broke they have no sense of humour. Then I’m stuck.

Sad beauty. This old miner’s house sits in an alley in downtown Ladysmith. It waits for a demolition crew. Through its inhabitants a house becomes a living thing. I hear children’s laughter, smell coal smoke and cooking aromas, see golden light in the windows on a wet winter night. Now it is no longer a sanctuary, but boarded up and slowly returning to the earth.

Recently I found myself in a large box store at a check-out counter. I was purchasing a new sewage-connection plumbing kit for my little trailer. The box it was in refused to stay closed. Plastic bits and long uncoiling brown springy hoses insisted on leaping out of their containment every time I managed to almost stuff them back into place. It was annoying but I could also see the funny perspective of my poo-pipe Jack-in the-box. I recall thinking, “Where’s the hidden camera?” A lady standing in line behind me asked, “Can I give you a hand”? Without thinking I responded with my usual come-back to that particular question. “Oh sure, I can always stand a little applause.” Invariably this brings a smile and laughter and I’ve made a new friend. Not today, even though others nearby saw the humour in my remark.

Dad? When can we have a another boat?

Look I was just trying to be helpful and you give me sarcasm. Goddamned men and their chauvinist attitudes! You don’t think women can do the same things men do!” Actually I do, I may even be more of a feminist that some women because I know many ladies who are more skilled than men doing anything that is considered within the manly realm. Pilots, doctors, welders, mechanics, machinery operators, ship’s captains, engineers, educators, politicians, on and on, gender is irrelevant to ability whether men can admit that or not. I refuse to categorize based on gender. That I even write about this is ridiculous. With that sensibility, I also have little patience with chauvinist remarks. I responded, “Look, I’m just trying to check out my shit pipes. I tried offering you a little humour in exchange for your kind offer. Now, please, get off my tits.” She shut up. I instantly regretted my last quip although I was implying that we are all equal, we are all mammals, now lay of the gender babble. She had intended to be helpful and I had worked at shattering her day simply because she has a different view of life.

When I rewind that scenario I realize that it would have been best to simply keep my pie-hole wide shut. I just can’t keep from responding to other folk’s remarks. Only I can allow their words to affect the course of my day in any way. Ultimately, the only person responsible for our feelings is ourselves. A woman once said to me in a very condescending tone, “You men are all the same!” Nope; I couldn’t resist. “Oh,” I replied, “Just how many men have you known?” Like the sign above says, “Do not make eye contact with the gorilla.”

Just another Dogpatch dawn.
The morning light is rich and sweet no matter what the sky.
Shadow chaser. An airliner at altitude flies into a perfectly aligned tunnel of its own contrail’s shadow.

Another equalizer is being overweight. “My doctor told me I was obese and I replied that after a recent trip through the US, I was not obese, thank you very much. I am certainly not spandex-tight wattle-revealing waddling sideways porky, but I’ll concede I am not the flat-bellied willowy self of decades past. With a few health problems spiralling around each other, packing around an extra forty pounds is detrimental to my well-being and longevity unless… I am a bear about to den up. Other folks I know have had great success with the trendy “Keto Diet” and so I have eliminated the consumption of carbohydrates and gluten including wheat, rice and pasta, beer, and most of the other foods which give me pleasure. I am left with meat fish and poultry, nuts, green vegetables which grow above the ground, cheese and a little dark chocolate. I am actually not missing the addiction to carbohydrates (Yeah right!) and things are starting to look down. There is also a certain pleasure in realizing that I have rejected the garbage diet most of my culture swallows without question. It is an easier regimen to assume than I thought and I am enjoying the results of a little self-deprivation. My jeans are beginning to hang from my suspenders like clown pants. Maybe, as I lose my big shape, I’ll actually be able to again use a belt successfully. For that you need hips. Don’t buy me any thongs just yet. Yuck! There is already a pair of Speedos I can’t bring myself to wear in public anymore.

A very short train. Ladysmith clings to a flickering dream of a railway museum.

Losing weight is not the only effort to trim the results of personal over-consumerism. I am trying to reduce the accumulations of belongings. If I never use it, or have even forgotten I possess it, it is junk. While I can’t bring myself to throwing out books or tools, I also am chagrined to realize that there is no point in storing boxes of things like plumbing fittings, bits of exotic wood, old useless boat parts and so forth. I’ve been dunging out and truly have ended up with loads of bits and bobs of no value to anyone. Potentially useful materials go to people like ReStore but otherwise, why keep stuff just for the bizarre comfort of owning “Stuff.” I’ve previously written about relatives who were hoarders to the point of reducing the value of their property because it was heaped with “Stuff.”

Lush. Calm. Birdsong.

I will confess to having rented a storage locker for the interim to store equipment and components left over from the sale of ‘Seafire.’ In the storage yard where my locker is, there is row after row of old cars, RVs and boats that are clearly worn out, rotting away and otherwise not used. Yet someone is paying to keep their belongings. Folks in our culture have so many belongings they can’t fit them into their over-sized homes. The storage business is a growth industry in North America. ($38 billion in the US alone.) As I was driving away and musing on our capitalist instinct, yet another news story on the radio ran on with more weary statistics about global warming. I often rant on about the “Profits of paranoia” so it was with some joy to sit at this desk and open a short YouTube presentation emailed on to me by a friend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiPIvH49X-E This link will take you to an excerpt from the 9th annual International Conference On Climate Change. It covers a short presentation by a renowned scientist named Art Robinson. Here are few things he has to say: “We are on a democratic playing field trying to save a constitutional republic.”…”All democracies fail and descend into mob rule.” In summation of what he presents the man says, whatever you choose to believe we ask you to “Think.” He presents a very different and qualified perspective on Global Climate Change and I found myself sitting at this desk applauding what he has the courage to say. I think some of his perspectives are skewed, we do need to think and act in a more responsible way toward our environment, but think, damn it, think.

Red Dogwood

I’ve recently forwarded two presentations of polemic, satirical political comment from YouTube to select friends. It was very interesting to consider the reactions each evoked. Some were in complete agreement with the views presented, others were enraged and very polarized against the ideas put forth. Interesting, in all negative responses I detected that only selected portions had been absorbed and the overall message had been missed. I have to always keep that in mind with what I write and leave no doubt in my comments and messages.

I have learned to keep my abstract social/ political views to myself past a certain point. There is no advantage for me to repel subscribers yet I also feel obliged to present thought-provoking suggestions that inspire folks to ask themselves questions which take them out of their personal comfort zones. Perhaps of all the things that separate the human organism from any other life form is our ability for introspection and self-questioning. To avoid doing so is to wilfully deny yourself your humanity. Goose-stepping out onto thin ice is foolish but sometimes, like it or not, you do have to look the gorilla in the eye.

The Sausage Hound. I couldn’t pass up this shot . One of the joys of Ladysmith is its old-time butcher shop on main street. It’s next to the pet store.

Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” …Albert Camus

You Guys

I TOLD YOU I’D BUY A POWERBOAT!
…but not this one.The ‘Taconite’ was built in 1930 by Boeing of Canada. The solid teak hull is 125′ long. Her annual budget just for paint and varnish must be formidable.
Back in the puddles again (You know the tune!) This is Jack’s bliss. He can plunk around like this all day.

Last blog I briefly outlined some experiences with scammers while shopping for an RV. Well, some folks don’t learn. Through various windows on-line I came upon a site that promised to find paying work for my writing and also offered online training manuals to help my writing and marketing skills. All I had to do was sign up. Yup! Dummy!

Being wary I did peruse their site carefully and then decided to take a chance. Their prices seemed reasonable enough to consider risk-worthy. I subscribed. While I was immediately welcomed to their fold, there was no receipt provided for my payment. A warning light began to flicker. I downloaded their manual but my computer refused to open it and offered some dire warnings. I finally noted that there was no upfront contact phone number or email address. My brain was finally on full alert as the monkeys on my shoulder again began to chant, “chump, chump, chump.”

Daylight in the swamp. A little sun and warmth changes everything.
When I was a young boy I’d gather these, soak them in paint thinner and light ’em up…just like in the movies.

I called my credit card provider and began the process to unravel my stupidity. They helped me find a contact e-mail address and so the letters began to flow. The counter-measure dialogues began and continued until I mentioned my blog and a promise for negative advertising. They agreed to reverse the charges and told me in polite terms that it was my fault if the download could not be opened. However, all the gadoodle settings are just fine and always updated. I am since wisely advised that I should always first check online to see if there are any reviews or scam alerts about any online services that are enticing. Good advise! So… will you take a posted dated cheque for that bridge? It’s more proof that there’s no fool like an old fool.

Wonderfully camouflaged and a master of stealth, the rare Log Elk could venture forth in broad daylight for a drink yet seldom be seen.
An ancient Gary Oak beside the moth of the Chemainus River. Imagine all it has seen through the centuries.

I have paid off a loan with the Royal Bank from the proceeds of the sale of ‘Seafire.’ which releases me from a hefty monthly payment. Being on a fixed income, I can now breath much easier. This ‘Omnipotent Bank’ is like all others, an organization which is not warm and fuzzy. I had no such expectations. They squeezed me for every possible penny. One of the reasons I had to give up ‘Seafire’ was that this bank refused to honour a disability insurance for which I dearly paid a monthly premium. Heartless greedy bastards! They can go on the ‘S’ shelf with the other scammers.

Spring in the saltmarsh.
It was covered in snow two weeks ago. This is the estuary of the Chemainus River. It looks like an interesting place to kayak.
Ah shucks! For me? It’s tulip time again.

Here in Ladysmith on Southeast Vancouver Island it is safe to finally declare that it is spring. Afternoon temperatures are suddenly into the teens. (We’re metric here, you folks in the US.) In town the streets are alive with the sound of lawnmowers, leaf blowers and pressure washers. Down on the highway there is the snarl and throb of motorcycles. Young folks in their cars are over-revving their engines and squealing their tires with the slam-slam-bam of rap music on boom box speakers at full volume. I think I preferred heavy metal, and I hated that. Folks are wearing shorts that display their fluorescent white shanks all the while still togged up in toques and winter jackets. As I write, neighbours cavort on their sundeck in the shade of late afternoon. The men are shirtless, the women are wearing tank tops. It is still very cool out of the sun but clearly spring is a state of mind as much as temperature. Birds sing spring songs, children play loudly in the streets, old farts sit and write blogs about what other folks are doing out there.

On that note let me share this with you. It is too hilarious to just leave. I swear it is true; I am not making it up. Subscribing to a daily e-bulletin board, which is faithfully and wonderfully posted, from La Manzanilla, Mexico I have read some amazingly stupid and gormless gringo complaints. Presumably folks go down there to see something different and experience the exotic. But then there are characters who write stuff like this. It is the ultimate and I copy it verbatim. “While I have enjoyed my stay here (For the most part) this morning I was again awakened by really, really loud birds. I could take this if it was a once in a while occurrence but it’s been happening every morning. Shouldn’t you guys form a committee or something to do something about this? My landlord neglected to mention this “little issue” and it’s another reason (dusty streets, buses without climate control) I’m withholding my rent payment again this month.”

I repeat that I did not make this up. This uproarious humour was seriously posted by someone calling themselves “Broman.” Imagine having this dude on your strata council!

I had to comment. I suggested that birds, dusty streets and warm buses are all part of the romance of Mexico. I wondered which Arctic city the whiner calls home. Maybe the problem is a daily tequila hangover; but Geez Louise! I know we are surrounded with the “me” generation and then there is the “me too” bunch but where the hell do these people come from? YOU GUYS…yeah right! There were sixteen other responses as scathing as mine.

Another sure sign of spring.

At my home, I’m busy tinkering-up my new used truck and trailer. This old aircraft mechanic does not like to wheel out onto the runway without having everything in top shape. No Max 8 surprises for me. This habit has helped kept me alive through the years. I call it being “Positively negative.” I have repeatedly learned that by assessing worse case scenarios and preparing for them is an excellent habit. In addition, my frenetic activity is a way of dealing with my loss of ‘Seafire.’ In my “spare” time I’m working to upgrade this blog and do a much better job of marketing it. It’s gonna be good! But busy, busy for now.

My ubiquitous annual snowdrop photo

Living on Vancouver Island has its transportation problems. Residing on an outlying island multiplies the expense and inconvenience as well as lost time. But no-one is forced to live removed from the mainstream. Commuting is a big business here. BC Ferries has a stumbling way of dealing with what is a life-line to thousands. Many folks commute to daily business in Vancouver by riding on a scheduled floatplane service. Harbour Air has become the main player after acquiring most of the smaller charter companies along the South Coast. It is a lovely flight between either Nanaimo or Victoria to Vancouver. Another company, Helijet provides a spectacular fast and high ride joining the three cities but at a spectacular price.

Now Harbour Air is actively working to prototype the first e-seaplane. There is a thorough description of the plan and its practicality in the Forbes article linked below.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremybogaisky/2019/03/26/the-first-electric-passenger-aircraft-could-be-50-year-old-canadian-seaplanes/#66ef79cc2c3b

I envision the flight manual. “ When preparing for flight, be sure to unplug the electrical supply to your aircraft. Coming to the end of your cord may abruptly impede the takeoff run.”

On another page in the Times Colonist Newspaper, an editor rehashes considerations for a bridge or tunnel between Vancouver Island and the mainland. It is weary rhetoric but Jack Knox writes nicely. “Moving to an island and complaining about the lack of a bridge is like moving next to a farm and complaining about the smell of manure.” Well put, I think.

Willow Flowers
A Downy Woodpecker. Constantly on the move,this wee character is very hard to capture with a cell phone.

In many communities, volunteer police informers whom I call “Wannabe cops” stand on the side of the ride with fluorescent vests and clipboards. They try to intimidate motorists into submitting to the letter of the law, whatever their interpretation may be. They infuriate me. There are laws about intimidation. I weary of people trying to empower themselves at someone else’s expense. I hate any hint of a police state. We already live with enough fears. Yesterday, while in nearby Duncan, I watched three geezers, as described, put on a grand show of making notes on their clipboards, apparently recording driver’s infractions of the rules. Two of these enforcers, deep in conversation, stepped off the curb to cross the street without looking and nearly had their bottoms dusted by a car making a left turn through a red light. They noticed nothing. If you can’t see the cars, how do you see the cell phones? I wished I’d recorded the event with my cell phone, but then I might have set myself up for a ticket. You guys! There is just no cure for stupidity!

I photographed this photo hanging on the washroom wall in a Thai Restaurant. A perfect picture of pure joy and innocence, some-one had to add the leaf and completely pervert the message. You can come up with your own caption, there are plenty.
Seafire III. It’s not very salty but she sure pulls to windward quite well. What adventures lay ahead?

From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.

…Dr. Suess

A Strange Week Indeed

Winter Blues
It’s just a little ice on a puddle and an excellent example of the everyday things we look at and don’t see.
Shattered.
A different perspective.
There may different ways to look at anything.
Look before you scrape.
The car windshield on a winter morning.
This man’s curse, and his dog’s joy.
Jack enjoys a roll in the crusty snow, then a slide on his back down the hill.
Birds.
I hear birds, alway the birds.
A “murder” of crows.
Nevermore!

My last blog was about poor old me worrying my way toward the final steps in the sale of my beloved ‘Seafire’ on this coming weekend. I thank those readers who have offered their warm support and kind comments to help me through the angst of the next few days. I am coping by staying busy indoors and out. I’ve sorted through my recent photo files, tinkered on the camper van, did some dog-sitting for friends and put together yet another short video from my recent trip. I am scheming ways to produce some income and looking forward to whatever comes next. This too shall pass. Idle hands find the devil’s work it is said. So it’s head down, arse up while staying gainfully busy. I am never stuck for things to do.

The W word.
My charges, Bella the Portuguese Water Dog and Louie the Poodle give me the eager eye in anticipation of their morning promenade.
Wanderlust, the incurable condition. Across the sea and over the mountains there are so many places and people to see and meet. A Vancouver Island view of mainland Canada.

And then it happened. The van sold, in less than a day of advertising it. Remember the song, “The thrill is gone?” Change the word thrill to van…yeah you’ve got it! Yes, I immediately bought a lottery ticket. May my karma not run over my dogma. Here is the latest video from the recent trip.

I need just enough to tide me over until I need more. …Bill Hoest

The Ides Of Marches

On the road to Tonopah Arizona. I wonder how the weather is there today.

Well there’s my tired clichė about the beginning of March. It can go right on the shelf beside the lamb and the lion, and oh yeah, the groundhog. Spring must be coming. Herds of dock inspectors roamed the marina yesterday, peeking into windows, thumping hulls and scanning boat rigs. After empty docks all winter, they’re back. It is nice way to spend some time on a sunny day, drifting and dreaming. Despite my despondency about parting with my boat, I too savoured the warm sunny day and I tried to see the world through the eyes of a landlubber. Like the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, winter still holds Vancouver Island in its icy grip. We do spells of clear skies, there is a little snow melting during the day and I did see some snow drops growing among the bushes. Other years there have been daffodils at the end of January. Both scenarios have the doom-gloomers declaring clear evidence of global warming. I’ll leave them to sort it out. And yes, I am aware of all the gasoline I burned on my recent trip.

There will be an incredible flower show in the desert in a few more weeks. I want to be there.

Of doom and gloom, the final transaction for the sale of ‘Seafire’ is a week away. I have spent days unloading the boat, one groaning, squeaking wagon-load at a time all the long way up the dock and ramp. Every time I have moved off of a boat I have been amazed at the “Stuff” a person accumulates. Now I’m giving my beloved her final scrub, removing winter’s grunge. And we all know that the deal is never done until it is done. The suspense is killing me. Oddly, there are two new inquiries, one of which involves delivering her to San Francisco, but truth be told, I am beseeching the gods for a last minute miracle which will allow me to keep my wonderful boat and travelling companion of so many miles. We have endured a lot together and I shall sorely miss her, and the whole idea of her, when the final day comes.

I have also decided to sell my old van. Wanna buy a camper van? It is a faithful little old bus but I know what I need now so I may as well clear the table and start over. I see other people settling into a comfortable retirement and the notion of a new beginning seems odd at my age but life is an adventure. I remind myself of Francis Chichester, who well into his seventies, and fighting cancer, set sail alone on an incredibly difficult-to-manage yawl ‘Gypsy Moth IV’, travelled around the world and then wrote his memoirs. Then a dark monkey on my shoulder asks, “So what’s your point?”

It can certainly be tough to stay positive and buoyant. On occasion I’ve let it slip that I have lived with clinical depression of all my life. I’m not complaining, just explaining. It has certainly been no sleigh ride and there are times when enduring another dreary day seems absolutely pointless. Being a blue-collar character I have lived in a world where such a thing is never admitted or discussed. That I live into “full maturity” (how’s that for a positive spin on ‘pre-geriatric’?) is, I think, a positive and happy story. On my recent trip I met inspiring people who deal with many challenges which would shatter others. Their life-force is a positive radiation and a wonderful influence which helps inspire their fellows forward. I consider how folks live elsewhere and marvel often at the obvious poverty and dreariness and wonder how people live a life which, to me, appears unbearable. There are secrets and courage which I do not begin to understand. As bleak as I’m feeling these days, I am struggling to finish reading a book called “The Bookseller of Kabul” by Asne Seierstad. It is an amazing inside look at the everyday lives of Afghani people, incredibly well-written and depressing as hell. The normal life of these people, especially the women, could make a stone weep. Their lives can only be endurable because they know nothing else. Are our expectations the root of our unhappiness?

I may be a creature of the sea but I left a piece of my heart at Baboquivari and in the desert . I will return.
I think I left a wrench here. I’m going back to find it.

I also marvel at the new things I see. In the desert, with the eyes of a newcomer, and a sailor, I saw flora and fauna which survive and thrive in incredibly harsh conditions. There is a reason for life to go on against massive odds beyond my comprehension. A joy which helps life make sense and have purpose is seeing those things and realizing that we too have a place in those circles, even if we don’t understand the total sum of the all the parts.

Stuff! It’s all just stuff. As much a personal temple as ‘Seafire’ has been, it is just stuff and there will be new pleasures in the future. The trick is finding joy in the moment. Belongings should never be a measure of who we are.
This delightful image was made and provided by my dear friend Kerry.

Giving up my boat is a step forward. While it feels like an ending, I know it shall be the beginning of a whole new set of adventures. Seafire Chronicles will continue to be posted under the same name. Comments from readers tell me there is value in what I do and in response, the sense of mission that I am afforded, in part, by this blog helps carry me forward. To give is to receive. Thank you. I often use the Lord Nelson quote, “Ships and men rot in port.” Staying busy keeps me alive; I subscribe to the mantra of “use it or lose it.” Some of my busyness will be to continue to hone my video-making skills. The first video from my trip is now posted on YouTube. It is a simple short clip made with my cell phone and a very good essay on the winter we’ve had. Here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REe71VHzJxU See ya in the movies.

A storm always ends. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.”

Roy Goodman

Maple Street

Maple Street doorway. Imagine all who have passed through here and what their business may have been.
A little rain on Maple Street
Old town charm in spring

It is suddenly all around me. I race to absorb the magic of it all. The grey eternity of winter and the crawling advance of early flowers have past. It is like waiting at a crossing for a train. You can hear it in the distance, slowly, it seems, approaching then suddenly roaring past. A few days ago thousands of geese and swans flew northward again high into the thin cold sunsets. Suddenly, friends gone south for the winter are back and on the same day, the martins returned, squabbling and flitting about as if they’d never left their little purple turds staining whatever they fall on. It has been an especially vibrant spring for trilliums and fawn lilies. Each time now I bend to photograph another flower the little voice on my shoulder says “Fer chrissakes, how many more do you need? A flower is a flower is a flower. C’mon!” But the breath-taking perfection is irresistible to me. There is an intensity of colours and a hope for better times ahead. For a few days in the past week the temperatures soared and I was among the winter survivors who emerged wearing shorts, my fluorescent knobbly legs absorbing the delicious warmth. I want to sop it up like a sponge, taking nothing for granted and storing it away for the next winter ahead which we know is not really that far away. As you get older you begin to see things that way.

Two blocks from the beach.

It rained today. Painting boats was out of the question. On the old Saltair highway south of here there is a lovely little bookshop. The owner doesn’t much care if he sells any books. He likes being surrounded by books and sits placidly reading while his ubiquitous Polynesian music plays softly. He says he simply enjoys the company of others who like books. A few minutes further there is a wonderful Thai restaurant in Chemainus that makes incredible food. A lunch was in order. The restaurant nestles on a quiet, old residential street. The repast was superb, elegant, exotic. The proprietor’s five-month-old baby girl, a black-eyed smiling beauty, greets patrons from her carriage in the corner. Within a few doors of the old building I’d found enough good photos in just a few minutes to complete this blog. Photography is a grand way to celebrate life, finding beauty and inspiration in simple things we look at and seldom see.

Spring rain in the park
The greening
These plants are called Vanilla Leaf and are a traditional insect repellant by hanging them in bunches.
The profusion of brilliant wildflowers continues.
More trilliums

Meanwhile my struggle with the holy grail of making a first film continues. It is a noble quest while I shall win. I am learning all the things which won’t work. That’s progress!

I’ve waited all afternoon!

.A natural law: A dog at rest tends to stay at rest.

A dog in motion tends to disappear.

A Bog Trotter And A Bilge Ape

BUSINESS FIRST: I’ll be doing a writer/salty dog presentation at the Ladysmith Maritime Society dock on May 12th at 2pm. There’s a link to a nifty poster bellow. Also I’ll be participating in the River’s End Poets Gathering in Steveston in the Cannery Museum on September 22nd in the afternoon.Talk on the Dock -3 sml file

CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO ENLARGE

Race Rock Light from the west
Deep sea vessels anchored in the Gulf Islands waiting for cargo. Mainland Canada in the distance.

Friday, April 13th. A January gale complete with slashing ice-cold rain hammers horizontally outside. Jack and I went out in the rising blast this morning to photograph flowers. We got some good shots and came home cold and wet.

Nettles in the rain.
So many flowers look so similar I’m afraid to hang a name on these.
Tension and balance
Fawn Lilies and Oregon Grape flowers. It has been a fabulous spring for these lilies.
The misfit. Weeds are only plants someone else says are bad.

I’ve been trying to teach myself how to use a popular film-editing program. I am frustrated and humiliated. Page 1 in the manual immediately referred me to page 249 and so it has gone. When I learned to fly, and to drive, I was turned out in the local cow pasture with some basic cautions. I taught myself what happened when you pushed this, pulled that, turned the round thing and stomped on that. Yep, I made mistakes, but progressed steadily and gained confidence to the point of competence. I’ve never had an accident on the road or in the air.

My life at sea has gone similarly and no-one knows me for being timid. Now I’m confronted with a set of neo parameters which immediately demand a total fluency in a new blither-gabble all the while pushing this, double-clicking that while holding F49. I’m sure I’ll learn, thousands of others have, but golly durnit! Let’s start with the foundations and the framing before we worry about the flower boxes and the heat pump. All I want to do is make a few simple films. Surely I don’t have to run away to film school. Ummm well…!

A nickel and a robin’s dead egg. I found it where it must have fallen out of the nest.
The coin is show its size.
A troll brain. Actually a spring fungus.
Jack is my faithful companion. He loves snuffling about while I take my photos.
A rare purple trillium

After deleting the first film-editing app. in frustration, installing another program then uninstalling it, I’ve re-installed a slightly different version of the first film app. It is called “Lightworks.” It is apparently a professional grade system and did allow me to print a 200 plus page paper manual. I can have this for referral while I plod into this. The other program had plenty of tutorials but I don’t know how to have the program up and running while at the same time watching an online tutorial. There have been lots of walks in the woods this week! I have been called a “Bog-trotter” by a certain in-law; that is essentially correct.

Current flowers

I have, however, just had a wonderful local experience out of the bog. They’ll soon have a fresh coat of paint on their facade but they are easy enough to find here in Ladysmith. The IRONWORKS CAFÉ and CRÉPERIE are on the main highway between the 7/11 and City Hall. There’s parking around the corner and immediately across the highway below the shoulder. Please use the crosswalk. The coffee and food and staff are all excellent. Soon, as the weather improves, their patio under a huge spreading chestnut tree will be open to enjoy an excellent fare. Check it out when passing by. There’s nothing like a fresh crepe to make your day. It leaves me feeling good to mention someone doing something right. And no, creeps are something entirely different. We have some of those too.

Vanilla Leaf.
These plants can be bunched and hung to use as an insect repellant.
The picnic table. Now, wine, cheese, smoked fish, warm fresh bread.

For some reason of coincidence I’m posting four photos of interesting trucks I’ve recently found along the way. The big Volvo 4×4 from Germany certainly caught my fancy. I could hear the waves on a remote Baja beach the moment I saw it.

The Lurchenwagon
A Volvo 4×4 motor home from Germany parked at the docks in Ladysmith
A lo-brid truck with a little flare.
Another whimsical effort at a home-built truck. no airbags, no crumple zone.
Mack Attack. This old Thermodyne looks as if it could haul a few logs yet…if there’s someone man enough to drive it.
Now that’s a driveway marker! There’s always something interesting around the next corner.
More headwork up another back road.
A lovely country home nestled in the woods
And so the three little pigs lived happily ever after.
A rock house.

On the subject of trucks I’m going to wade into this one as delicately as possible. I am impressed with the tremendous collective expression of condolence for the Saskatchewan hockey team that met with such tragedy last week. I am intrigued by the mass mourning for lost hockey players. Yes hockey was the common thread which brought them to be together in a bus yet while they were part of a hockey team they were also human beings with the full range of fears, hopes, dreams and problems we all have. Should these sixteen dead have been young children or senior citizens or a group of indigenous folks would there be the same outpouring of grief? Would flags being flying at half-mast? What if this tragic loss was innocent civilians killed as collateral damage in a rocket attack in Syria? How about a sunken boatload of Middle-Eastern refugees? Are their lost lives of less value? Well, we may never even know about their tragedies, so how can we grieve, but my point is that participants in a national sport seem to hold a higher value than other mere mortals. This trendy scramble to join the funeral parade demeans the entire grieving process. Even my on-line banking site is thick with photos of hockey sticks. You’re right; I don’t get it. Sorry if I’m being obtuse. I’m not saying it is wrong because I am out of this particular loop but surely there are some obvious questions to be raised about our cultural values.

Magnolia blooms in an alley off main street Ladysmith

And I find myself lacking another comprehension. Argentine prawns in our superb local butcher shop. I just watched the daily return of our local prawn fleet to our docks which are just down the hill within sight of the butcher shop. What are we doing?

The mannequin looking out. It’s very eerie to see at first. This grand old building in Ladysmith is reputed to be a former brothel. It looks over the harbour.

Hockey, prawns, film-making; is there nothing that makes sense. I am down on the dock a lot these days tinkering on ‘Seafire’ and other boats nearby. That, at least, is something I fully understand and clearly where I fit in. This old bilge ape knows his place.

How’s this for distracted driving? Something else that is hard to make sense of. I’ll bet there’s a mobile phone in there somewhere.
Heartbreak. This is the saddest photo I’ve taken in a long while. In the spring of 2000, just after major heart surgery, I finished building this Gloucester Gull dory and rowed and camped my way through the Gulf Islands. It was a lovely bright yellow boat that rowed like a dream. I later sold it. It has rot in both ends and has clearly seen no love since I last saw it. Her sweet lines are still obvious.
A photo taken from the same dory on a happier day.

Once you’ve become a pickle you can’t be a cucumber again” … Steve Earle

Onwards And Sideways

It’s Official. Spring has arrived. Now that the trilliums are in bloom there can be no denying that, reluctant as it may be, spring is finally here.

WOW! I knew a lot of this blog’s readers liked my photos but I was not prepared for the reaction to moving pictures. Thank you. So, you really liked the film clip! Guess what? I’ll start inserting more. I’ve always wanted to learn how to edit, cut, and splice films as well as dub-in music, narrative, titles and so forth. I will learn. For the moment you’ll have to endure raw, unedited film shorts but I’m working on improving. We’ve got a good thing going on. Here’s one I shot this morning.

The feedback from readers about selling old ‘Seafire’ is almost divided equally. Some say, “Yeah, you’re right, cut yourself away from the stuff.” Others say, “Wot! Swallow the anchor?” Not you old chap. That’d be totally daft. How can you be Fred without a boat.” I am torn. This afternoon, I went down to the boat as usual to do a little tidying and cleaning and eventually ended up in one of the bunks for a nap. With two sleeping cabins I do have a way of producing a little income from chartering. I have forgotten this is one reason I bought this particular vessel. I drifted off to sleep during a spring squall and awoke later to find it was still pounding rain on the cabin top. The wind moaned in the rigging and I felt a deep sense of well being. The old chubby chap snug in his big fibreglass egg. I contemplated giving up my deep passion for flying and spending thirty-five years refitting and selling boats until I’ve ended up in this, my eighth boat. What all have I sacrificed for this? What has my wife endured and sacrificed for my dreams? Can I really walk away from this huge investment and be content and feel fulfilled? The happiest time of my life, as I recall, was when I only owned a backpack. Stuff, bloody stuff.

Even the dock critters are showing a renewed interest in life.
 makes for someinteresting results
Taking photos in the rain
The Watcher
A path too-well travelled
Like rivers, all paths eventually lead to the sea. This petroglyph,near Sooke, faces the Strait Of Juan De Fuca and is a dramatic location at any time. Some morons have tried to scratch  some graffiti on top of it. A nearby brass palague admonishing the dire penalties of defacing a cultural land mark, sports four bullet holes.
Up the creek! Jack explores a backwater in the Chemainus River.

I’m posting an old standard poem which I wrote many years old. ‘The Water Rushing By’ is also the title of my first published collection of writing about being a mariner on the waters of the Pacific Northwest. I need to get another run printed. Perhaps this one piece says everything worth saying. There is another short video at the end.

The Water Rushing By

Oh accursed dreamer who is called sailor

you cannot explain the longing

that leaves you restless for open ocean

out of sight of land

and those who would love you.

You are compelled eternally

to seek the solitudes of the undulating plane

that separates the heaven and the abyss

and you cannot feel complete without

the water rushing by.

Perhaps it is a lifepulse that calls you

a beating like the fetal heart throb

that sustained you in the warmth

and liquid of your mothers womb

now rising, then falling

caressing all around you

the harmony of hull in water

you surround yourself again in embryonic shelter

safe from all that would harm you

protected by the rhythm

of the water rushing by.

You go there beyond reason

of land bound men

so that again you may seek

the sight of yet another shore

from the only place remaining on the planet

where the world is seen almost as it always was.

There upon the tumbling mirth

of unchanged ever changing ocean

alone under ancient blue light

of beckoning stars and lonely distant worlds

receiving radiations of timeless wisdom

infinite love, endless yearning

of the universe eternal

and all the atoms of

the water rushing by.

Your life is become like your vessel

fusions of unlikely substance

that were in the earth, or grew upon it

joined together in brutal process

burning, bending, grinding cutting, pounding, poisoning.

Complex angles curving outward

inward, up and down

vertical, horizontal all at once

incongruous, inspired joinery

to craft a device of grace and beauty

for function, purpose, yet unplanned journeys

containing the conundrumed equation

of ballast against volume

to prevent capsize and stay floating outward

away from the now alien land where it was born

A convoluted, easy, tensioned balance

and buoyant synergy.

Yet no sum of parts will ever matter

so long as there ever is the simple music

of the water rushing by.

Man and vessel married

a happy oneness

dancing to the callings

of the sea bitch goddess.

Caressing her face and writhing body

with never ending, soon unmarked passage

of foaming wake across

the heaving breasts and belly

you are unable to abandon

the addictions of your passion.

Oh accursed sailor ever lusting

for just another moment, lonely then fulfilled

with peace and terror

lostness and homecoming

and the potent pleasure

of the water rushing by.

Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” …Voltaire

Inroads

Spring has arrived, White schooners and Fawn Lilies.
This gorgeous wooden schooner, designed by Bill Garden, is recently built. You’d have to be dead for your heart to not skip a beat. She’s about 67′ long overall.
Fawn Lily

Never have I had such a reaction to any blog such as the last one. You, my readers, have moved me deeply. Thank you all so much about your concerns for my dreaded decision about needing to sell the boat. Everyone of you have suggested that I do not separate myself from such a large piece of who I am. I do not take your suggestions lightly. Thanks again. I appreciate your empathy and support. We’ll see how the pickle squirts in the coming weeks.

Green, green, green.
A salmon stream.
Nurse stumps.
Huggers.

Unfortunately I am a cyber-Neanderthal and while trying to sort out one fumble, my banana fingers changed a privacy setting which prevented some of you from contacting me. I’ve fixed that and look forward to hearing from you. Interaction with my readers is one of my joys.

One of the photos in my last blog was of laundry on a line. To me it is a now all-too-rare signal of domesticity and frugal, simple living. In my childhood nearly everyone had a clothesline. One of my jobs was to hang the laundry out and retrieve it once dry. First you wiped down the line to clean off any soot or other air contaminants. Then you hung the heavy items first so that they would go closest to the far pulley. In winter everything froze almost instantly, sheets, long underwear, socks, all stiff as a board. Then, slowly, the process of sublimation occurred and everything ended up freeze-dried as the softest, fluffiest laundry possible and all done without any chemicals. Apparently in both Canada and the US there are bans now falling into place to overrule previous bans preventing outdoor laundry lines. Apparently, some folks take offence at the sight of someone’s clean scanties flapping in the wind and all the think-green rhetoric means nothing when vanity overrules. I’ve heard of municipal fines in California imposed on citizens who did not water their lawns despite ongoing droughts. In Victoria, here on Vancouver Island, during dry summers businesses spring up that actually paint your dry grass a rich green. Appearance is everything to some folks. I’ll even admit that I have certain sensibilities about what appear to me as an “Ugly Boat.” That could be a blog in itself.

Cedar corpse in the woods, slowly becoming soil again from which it first sprouted.

Although the blossoms of spring have finally tip-toed out, there is still an icy chill in the air. We even had fresh snow low on the mountains a few days ago with ice pellets falling at sea level. The ambient temperature needs to be considerably warmer to accomplish many of the tasks on my boat. Paint and epoxy require temperatures above 16°C to cure correctly so most work is on hold. In the meanwhile Jack and I have taken to exploring the three major rivers south of Nanaimo. This area was developed around its abundant timber and coal resources and then the rich agricultural land once the forest was devastated. Now there are large ventures in the wine industry. There are vineyards everywhere, with tasting rooms and boutique bistros at many of these locations. There are also cideries, organic produce farms, free-range poultry and meats, local cheeses, home-spun clothing and a plethora of cottage arts. It is a wonderful region to explore and with some views, you might begin to think of Provence or Tuscany.

A very well travelled deer trail.

The three rivers all flow eastward. The Cowichan, The Chemainus and The Nanaimo all drain large watersheds and run swift and clear down to the sea and the beautiful archipelago of the Gulf Islands. Sadly, all these watersheds have been logged rapaciously since the mid 1800’s and many sawmills are gone now due to lack of raw logs. (We do, however, manage to export several shiploads of those same logs every week!) The environmental and visual devastation of these valleys is demoralizing. While the rivers still run clear and swift, usually with a fringe of old-growth timber along their banks, there is no sense of pristine wilderness. The old cut- blocks are garbage-dump ugly. Many salmon streams are now clogged with debris and unusable by traditional ish stocks. Still, the logging roads provide access to public forest lands and despite the carnage there is hope of seeing various species of wild life and also finding small pockets of untouched wild areas. Sadly those maintained roads are there so that second and even third cuttings of regenerated forest can be accessed. It would take centuries for the rain forest to return to its original state. So long as people are here, that will never happen. Exploring each of these river valleys we’ve found abandoned rail grades, mines, buildings and other mysterious endeavours. There are small untouched pockets of forest with ancient trees and crystal clear water rushing through gaps in hard rock which must have taken millions of years to carve and polish. Invariably you will also find discarded beer cans and bits of junk, but you have to learn to focus elsewhere.

Sacred, secret, sweet.

Hopefully you can open this this 1 minute video. The stream runs along the edge of some old logging. Imagine how long it took to carve this pool in solid granite. The water is delicious.

If the landmass which is Vancouver Island had developed at a slightly lower elevation, it would be divided into three islands instead of a single rock which is the size of some small countries. The most northerly island would be bounded on the south by ocean which is now a pass we know as the Alberni Valley and the Qualicum Valley. Further south the next dividing gap would be the Cowichan Valley. The eastern portion of this valley is fed by Lake Cowichan, a deep, beautiful body of water which has been logged right to its shoreline in most places. The water is clear and warm in the summer and so the lake is overrun with people roaring its lengths in noisy speedboats and jet skis. I curse them as an affront to the natural beauty of this place. A few miles to the west of Lake Cowichan is Nitinat Lake which drains westerly out through its shifting narrows directly into the open Pacific. Salmon migrations were once so huge that seine boats would risk the coastal surf and the tortuous narrows to fish the rich waters of this lake. Local indigenous men would earn huge fees to guide the boats through the narrows. Sadly this valley also fell prey to the rape of the timber trade and the verdant slopes are now mostly second growth forest. A few miles to the south of Nitinat lays the Carmanah Valley, home of some of the largest remaining old growth trees on the BC Coast. Ironically it was loggers who provided access and exposure to these incredible living giants.

A reproduction of a petroglyph found near Clo-ose, near Nitinat Narrows. clearly an essay on fertility, both human, and the sacred migration of salmon, an eagle guards the scene on the left. A full moon, relevant to timing of a salmon run, smiles from the sky. On the right a warrior stands with an enemy’s head in his right hand. This hangs above my desk. I have contemplated it for years, and would love to go see the real thing.
Hawk Mask by Hayward Russell, 1998. This equisite carving is another of my treasures. Believe it or not, I found it in a pawn shop at a bargain price when I had just enough money left to my name to buy it. To me, it is priceless.

It can be argued that the farmland is also a blight to the natural world but at least it is producing something life-giving and organic and picturesque. Hopefully we don’t poison our streams with manure and fertilizer. Unfortunately, the south island has become one of the most desired retirement areas in Canada. Suburban sprawl has become rampant in most areas. The only way to avoid it is to move to the wild and rugged northern end of Vancouver Island.

It will be a while longer before that region is also overrun with suburbanites and condomites and mallites. But, it’s coming. Meanwhile supply and demand has unreal estate prices rocketing far beyond any hope of affordable housing for average working folks.

Jack crosses to the other side, and then comes back again. He has the balance of a cat.

What a wonderful place this must have been before Europeans arrived. While there are no records of explorer’s crews attempting to jump ship here, the locals weren’t always that friendly and even a simple meal of mussels might kill you. However the raw beauty here would have been overwhelmingly grand and mysterious. Each newly discovered inlet just might be the long-sought shortcut back to the old world. Some explorer’s journals reported that the area could never amount to much because the land was covered with massive, far too difficult to clear for farming. It didn’t take long to figure out. Many ships returned home with a deck cargo of spars. The rape continues centuries later.

A Straight Stick

Dog and I walked miles of forest trails that twisted and wound, up and down river banks, over roots, around boulders and quagmires, all the while searching for one simple perfect thing. I wanted a handle for a boot hook and determined that it should be maple. West coast maple grows along the edges of human intrusion, old farms, railways, logging sites. There are huge maples which are clearly ancient arboreal giants. Maples, with their large leaves, make a wonderful display in the autumn and then provide a thick, rich layer of humus to the forest floor. Nature designed some to grow quickly, die, rot and nourish the soil. This occurs where several have germinated thickly and need thinning which is accomplished by natural attrition.

It was one of these which I sought. When peeled and allowed to cure the wood is very strong. Larger maples provide beautifully patterned lumber for furniture and ornamental trim. All I wanted was one stick. Young fir and cedar grow straight with a correct taper but they are soft woods which will not be as tough as a piece of cured maple. My challenge was to find one that was straight and true. I wanted it to be eight feet long with a gentle taper and an average diameter of one and a half inches. It had to be almost perfectly straight. There are, of course, millions growing out there. All I needed was one. It became an eye-crossing endeavour.

Every maple sapling I considered was nearly perfect but each one of an adequate length and diameter had a curve or a twist that made it unsuitable. After too many days of searching I found one that was very close to perfection. I had no saw with me so I memorized nearby features which would help me find it again. A few days later I returned to harvest my treasure. Now I noticed all the other leaning trees, odd roots, and puddles with big rocks nearby. I tramped back and forth three times until I found it again. It is in my workshop now, peeled and almost perfectly straight. It has been cut to exactly eight feet. Several months from now it will be mounted on one of my boat’s shrouds, bronze hook and tip installed and ready for a lifetime at sea as a useful tool. If I stay ashore, I’ll have my own personal Gandalph’s staff.

The stick. It is warping a bit as it dries, we’ll see how it looks once completely dry.

DRONE

Dog and I walked into the woods

on an afternoon sunny and fine.

We followed a tortuous trail

down to a river running fast,

cold, clear like sweet white wine.

We sat and surveyed the scene

feeling primal

inhaling the perfect and pristine,

enjoying our time alone.

Then up the river

flying fast and low

came

a goddamned drone.

Pecking Order . Huge flocks of Trumpeter Swans are heading north… a sure sign of spring.

The environment is everything that isn’t me.“ …Albert Einstein 

Three In A Row

It is happening for the third morning in a row. A sunrise! Clear skies! Only a light frost.

Yep, the same old view. Freighters wait for their cargos. They’ve been here for weeks. For the crews, it is the hardest part of their voyage, the waiting without being able to go ashore.
And then God said… “This’ll teach ’em.”
Actually, I’ve simply inverted a photo of a reflection during a walk on a recent sunny morning.

It has been a most reluctant spring so far. A daily E-bulletin board from Mexico to which I subscribe now has banter about the best border crossing to use on the spring trek home and what the flowers will be like in the Sonora Desert. Clearly, I’m not going to make it to Mexico this winter.

My friend Jack. Nothing pleases him more than to explore a new trail…
…especially if it leads to water.
Spring stream, before the water rises.
Nanaimo river before the spring freshet. (This and the next two photos are mobile phone shots)
Potholes on the river bank.
Jack was impressed with all the water bowls…just for him.
Darkness will suddenly fall, time to hoof it back up the river bank.

My beloved ‘Seafire’ has long been the focus of my existence and the tangible evidence of a wonderful dream. This blog has its foundation built on that idea, the dreaming and scheming, the preparations to realize those notions and adventures, both inner and outer. Now comes the reality that due to poor health and finances, ‘Seafire’ probably should be sold. I’m trying to convince myself that this will be a step forward into a higher state of being that has nothing to do with the stuff I possess or which tries to own me.

Modern petroglyphs
…still with secret meanings.

During the time I’ve been writing this blog friends have sailed their boats almost around the world and continue their voyage even as I write. Another good buddy set out on his boat and sailed many of the perimeters of the Pacific Ocean. They both deserve a big note of gratitude for their inspiration and their achievements. I’m still here. ‘Seafire’ has never sailed out of sight of these shores. I have logged thousands of miles up and down this coast, often in stormy winter weather and all on my own. The boat has also been my home for many years so there is nothing to regret as I arrive at this moment of painful decision. Yet I acquired the boat and refitted it for a voyage south and then on to Britain and Europe. None of it will ever happen. That leaves a very hollow feeling and the only way to make sense of it is to find the window that this journey has led me to. Wanna buy a really nice boat?

‘SEAFIRE’
I’m prolonging the moment when the “For Sale” sign goes up. I truly love this old boat.

Someone once told me that there are many ways to interpret the same script. The folks at Bombay Gin held a short film competition, the results of which can still be seen via Google.

The rules were simple. Five minutes was the time limit, everyone had to incorporate the same script. The five finalists each produced an entirely different film, including one animation. They are all wonderful, with the winner being titled ‘Room 8.’ It is amazing to realize the diversity of human creativity, even when forced within narrow parameters. Not only can we interpret a script any way we want, we each have the freedom to write any script any way we want.

I remind myself of this as I write while the sun reflects off my neighbour’s wall and through the narrow window beside my desk.

The blinding and inspiring  view from my desk as I write. Not even an ocean glimpse!

A television documentary last evening inspired me again to travel the back roads of Mexico in exploration of that country’s huge cultural history and wonderful natural eco-system. I have my little trailer which is perfect for that. I also have my blog to carry forward. Each week there are more new subscribers. Your comments and criticisms underscore your support and I sincerely thank all my readers. I can commit that the blog will continue no matter what.

Fizzy Brook, beneath a small waterfall found while out and about on another exploration.
There goes the neighbourhood!
Federal money has been provided to clean up the derelict vessels on the Black Beach in Ladysmith. That makes room for more.

In the meantime, ‘Seafire’ is having a good spring clean-up. Jack and I are also exploring local places that we have been passing by for years. Isn’t it amazing how we can look at so much and see so little? Here are some local photos and a little piece of my writing.

Back Alley Ladysmith, there’s always something to see…if you look.
Back Alley tilt,
Laundry on a line, a rare sight anymore and yet another back alley view.
Secrets revealed. An old hotel on mainstreet has sold. An excavation of contaminated soil in the back reveals two hidden entrances.

Monument

The little town where I live was built on a hillside

above the docks

where there are now more yachts than fishboats.

To go down there you must pass

through a four-way stop

where the oldest building on main street stands.

It is built of local stone and brick

thick walls mortared together

with high-arched windows

and apartments above.

There was once a newspaper office there.

They called me from among their list

of handymen advertisers and wanted me to look

at a job rebuilding their entrance.

Someone had almost fallen through the old wood.

I proposed replacing it with concrete

then took on the project alone.

The work had to be completed in one afternoon

after closing time

and ready for next morning.

I’m no concrete man,

but I was broke.

Of the values that come with working on boats

is a portfolio of diverse skills

a deft bravado that comes from incessant poverty

and often being somewhere with no-one to help.

I hung out my shingle

when work on the water was scarce.

The cement truck arrived while I was still cleaning out old wood

and building a new form with plenty of rebar

because I wasn’t sure how much was required.

The August sun blasted that entry way like a bake oven

I worked like a fool to get the mix in place and trowelled out

but in the heat it began to set

and I kept adding water to stay ahead of the game.

I knew that was wrong

but then, somehow

all my problems are resolved with water.

Just in case the job went bad

I did not leave my initials.

Years later

that slab is still there

uncracked, solid, permanent

down there at the old corner of First and Last

where I can see my boat from the main street.

It is my monument,

my piece of the town

now an entrance to a fish and chip shop

where thousands have trod

in and out

never thinking about an old sea dog

slaving madly on a hot summer afternoon

maintaining their ease and safety.

Why should they?

It is my secret.

Only I know what lies down there

underneath their feet as I pass smugly

on the way to the docks.

My Monument, beneath the door mat.
You’ve got to keep your sense of humour! I decided I needed to comment about all those HY-BRID automobiles.

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Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny…. Stephen Hawking